Transforming a Diet into a Healthy Lifestyle, 5 Easy Tips! / by PJ Monson

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I was inspired today when I saw on Facebook that one of my best friends and culinary expert, Amanda Beaudin, is taking on the challenge of "Sober January." Amanda is one of my biggest role models when it comes to healthy eating. She taught me that tapping into your inner chef can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to healthy food choices. It is these same skills that can transform the temporary mindset of you "being on a diet" to a permanent mental mojo of having a "healthy lifestyle." The thing I love about her the most, and why I deem her a CentralSweat role model, is that she knows how to play hard but in moderation, make the food she needs to eat the food she wants to eat, and understands that a time period of overindulgence requires a break in the normal routine. Here are some tips to add choices to your everyday diet without adding inches to your waistline.

1. It's All In The Timing! Sometimes it's not what you're eating but when you are eating it. You should have breakfast within the first two hours of waking up and eating dinner about three hours before you go to bed. I love the phrase "eat like a king for breakfast, prince for lunch, and pauper for dinner." If you know you will never be a "big breakfast" type of person, focus on switching your "lunch salad" with your "taco dinner." This way you keep including some of the things you love but not right before you go to sleep when your body won't burn the excess calories.

2.Don't Wake Up a Camel! Breakfast is going to be your most important meal of the day, not because of the food itself, but because what you eat (or don't eat) within the first couple of hours of waking up will dictate what you will crave the rest of the day. I always tell my clients "your body will store food like a camel stores water." One of the reasons a camel's body stores water is to keep him hydrated during those long desert journeys with no oasis in sight. By not eating within the first couple hours of waking up, you are telling your body you are in a "city desert" where food is scarce, which means, instead of normally processing for energy purposes, your body will mostly hold on for dear life to whatever you eat next for fear of landing back in that "city desert."  Also keep in mind that the type of breakfast you eat determines what you will crave for the rest of the day. Eating protein for breakfast, like eggs, helps you stay full longer and keeps your blood sugar levels at bay. Eating something sugary, like a muffin or donut, will make you hungry sooner and cause you to have sugar cravings the rest of the day.

3.Plan, Plan, Plan! There are not many hardships in life that planning does not make easier. When you plan a budget you spend less money. When you plan your workout you spend less time in the gym, and when you plan your meals you spend less time in the kitchen and consume fewer calories. Take a couple hours on your weekend and think about your schedule for the next week, make sure your fridge is stocked with the "good stuff", and spend a little time cooking some "grab-and-go" meals you can look forward to on your lunch hour. This could include homemade vegetable soup, turkey chili, whole grain pasta with vegetables, or roasted root vegetable quinoa.(These will trump any $12 salad your coworker found at the deli next door!) Its also always good to have a pot of quinoa or brown rice on stand by so when you need to order that 911 chinese chicken and broccoli you have a healthier substitute for the white rice.

4. SOTS BABY! Always, always, always put the sauce on the side. Whether its condiments for your turkey burger, dressing for your salad, or aioli for your tacos, you never need as much as you think or as much as your local chefs like to pile on your favorite dishes. Remember that a little goes a long way! Two big items my clients constantly overlook when it comes to ingesting excess calories are beverages and sauces. However, sauce doesn't have to be the only thing you put on the side. I try to ask myself "if you are not going to taste it then why eat it?" For this reason, I rarely ever put cheese on an already loaded sandwich or hamburger in a rich spaghetti sauce. Cheese contains ALOT of calories so decide if it is really going to make or break the meal before adding it and I always try to sub turkey burger for hamburger when I know most of the flavor come from the sauce. Learning to substitute olive oil for butter can also make a huge difference in the quality of your food.

5. Keep It in the Fridge and Out of the Cupboard! One of the best things about cooking on any level is you always know what is going into your food. Currently, there is a ton of debate on the impact different chemicals and preservatives can have on your body. Sodium is also a huge factor when buying prepackaged food ( Mmhmm.. water weight). Yes diet soda has zero calories, but the chemicals that cause this phenomenon also cause water retention, sugar cravings, and larger portions to be eaten at each meal. These chemicals are UFOs in your body. Not being natural, or unidentifiable, makes them harder to process or utilize for energy so they end up causing more harm than good. The fridge is great for storing those "grab-and-go" pre made meals, fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. The freezer can also be your best friend for storing bags of veggies you can quickly throw in the microwave or for storing the 5 gallons of squash soup you made on that random craving Sunday.

These are only a few things to keep in mind as you start on your journey towards a healthier you. There is no one best way to eat and there is never a "one size fits all" approach to healthy lifestyle coaching. Just remember that you can't start building till you assess the foundations. Figure out where your weaknesses are before you dive into one plan or another. We do our best to try and target problems that affect a significant number of people and we are always interested in new information and feedback. If you need advice on a topic we haven't covered, please let us know because you are probably not the only one with the question!

Cheers to a New Year and Healthier You!=)

Polly